Editorial: 19 jobs N.C. government needs, and 3 it probably doesn't

May. 21, 2013 @ 06:51 PM

Looking over a list of the changes proposed by the state Senate in its budget proposal for fiscal 2013-14, the mind reels.

There is too much in it begging for commentary. Trying to cover it all would be too confusing. Here are a couple things – or 22, depending on how you county them – that caught our eye.

First: The state crime lab would get 19 more scientists. As the News-Topic’s Kim Gilliland reported last week, the lab currently gets about 34,000 requests a year for evidence testing and has just 124 scientists to handle it, and those 124 can’t even spend all their working hours doing lab work; they have to spend a large amount of their time waiting around in courthouses across the state to testify about their test results.

There simply are not enough people to keep up with the work.

The proposed new positions amount to about a 15 percent increase in staffing. Presumably the budget does not increase the pay level for the crime lab’s staff – Joseph John, the crime lab director, says he keeps losing people to Wake County’s own crime lab, which pays $20,000 a year more – but more staff is a start.

Adding lab staff will help clear the backlog in processing evidence that has slowed the justice system. The resulting delays are unfair to those awaiting trial, to the victims and their families, and to the taxpayers, who have a right to expect their elected leaders to ensure that the justice system, like all the mechanisms vital to society, is funded at the level necessary for it to function.

Last: Among the few other changes in the Senate’s budget proposal that would add jobs instead of cutting them is this: three new positions for the lieutenant governor’s office.

We don’t know the details of that particular change, but what those positions are for seems unlikely to alter our initial impression that the lieutenant governor ought to try a little harder to get by with his staff at its current size. Find something to give up and shift the resources to what the new staff would have done.

That’s what so many other people and businesses in North Carolina have had to do, and it’s what most of the Senate budget proposal is going to force more of because it cuts so many jobs (800 from prisons, 550 from substance-abuse treatment, plus unspecified numbers of teacher assistants in elementary schools and jobs likely to be lost from cuts to the UNC system and economic development organizations, to name a few).

All of that said, there’s a long way to go before any budget proposal’s line items become law. Keep your fingers crossed in the meantime.